If you find yourself traveling in the world After the COVID lockdown, you’re going to need preparation, patience, and some wiggle room.
ABOVE PHOTO: Travelers queue up move through the north security checkpoint in the main terminal of Denver International Airport, Thursday, May 26, 2022, in Denver. Airline travelers are not only facing sticker shock this Memorial Day weekend, the kick off to the summer travel season, but they’re also battling a pileup of flight cancellations. More than 1,000 flights were canceled as of Saturday afternoon, May 28, according to flight tracking website FlightAware, after 2,300 cancellations on Friday. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
By Denise Clay-Murray
Because the COVID pandemic has made it so many of us haven’t seen friends or family in a while, the thought of hopping on a plane to reunite with loved ones is a tempting one.
Last week, SUN sportswriter Chris Murray and I acted on that impulse and decided to go to the joint convention of the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists in Las Vegas. The five-day gathering brought close to 5,000 journalists of color to the Caesars Palace hotel for workshops, discussions, and reverie.
But as we prepared to go to the convention, an event that had COVID precautions at its center (Proof of vaccination and booster were required to register), we knew that the airlines had decided that they’d no longer require masking on flights. We also knew that having Clorox wipes on hand to wipe down seats on the plane would come in handy as well.
What we didn’t prepare for, and we should have, was the impact that COVID is still having on the flying experience.
Here’s what I mean by that.
Chris and I were headed home from Vegas on Sunday night on a red-eye, or overnight flight. We flew from Vegas to Phoenix to wait for our connecting flight to Philadelphia.
That’s when the fun started. Once we landed in Phoenix and went to the gate we were supposed to be leaving from, my phone started buzzing with text messages from American Airlines that said that we needed to report to customer service because our flight had been moved to 8a.m.
Chris went to customer service to find out what was going on, and came back with vouchers for food, transportation, and an extended stay hotel because we were stuck in Phoenix due to what he was told was weather issues. But seeing as flights to New York and Washington, D.C. had just left, I didn’t quite buy that.
We later found out that the weather wasn’t the problem, it was a lack of staffing, something that had impacted a lot of folks trying to go home from the convention. Many of us found ourselves spending the night in airports, trying to get as much sleep as possible in airports that were filled with people.
After Chris and I got home and got a little more settled in, I started looking around the internet to find out what was going on here. Airlines are cutting the numbers of flights due to staffing issues. For example, if you’re planning on visiting relatives for Thanksgiving, you might want to consider renting a car. Twenty airlines, including American, have cut the number of flights they’ll be offering in November down by 34,000.
So, if you are traveling by air, keep the following in mind:
*Double-check the status of your flight before you even leave the house: My guess is that the folks at American knew that there was going to be a problem with our flight well before we landed in Phoenix. Had I called before we left our hotel, I would have known to do what I’m going to suggest next, which is to remember that…
*Carry-on bags are your friend: Because the flying experience has become so ‘catch as catch can,” making sure that you have what you need should you find yourself stranded due to a canceled flight is important. Keep a carry-on bag with a change of clothes, a toothbrush, toothpaste, any medication you might need, and any charging cords on hand. That way, no matter what happens, you’re prepared. You might want to have a snack on hand as well.
*Keep track of your baggage claim checks: Because you may have to switch planes due to canceled flights, it helps to be able to present your baggage claim tags. If you’re on one flight, and your baggage is on another, baggage claim tickets will help with that, especially since you should also….
*Have the customer service number for your airline on hand: If you lose your luggage or have another issue, making sure you can call someone is important. Also, have a pad and pen on hand when you talk with them. That way, you can follow up and have a point of contact.
Making sure you’re prepared will keep you from being totally annoyed should you have trouble with your flight.